Newtown Police Department Marks 50th Anniversary
A gathering on November 13 in front of Newtown Police Department's headquarters honored 50 years of public service.
“It’s a time to celebrate,” said Police Chief James Viadero when opening the event. “It’s the 50th anniversary. It’s pretty much a milestone for this town to see where we came from and where we are right now.”
Viadero added that it has also been roughly a year since the department moved to its new location at 191 South Main Street.
Captain Christopher Vanghele, who Viadero credited for organizing the event, noted that the last time there was a similar gathering was 20 years ago for the department’s 30th anniversary.
“I was here with at least a dozen of the guys who are still here,” said Vanghele. “I’m extremely proud of the department that we have, of the members who have retired, of the town that we work in, the support that we get, the great leadership that we have here, and, of course, the officers who are my brothers and my sisters.”
Newtown Police Department officially began in September 1971. Some of the speakers shared memories from the past and others shared hopes for the future along with well wishes for Newtown’s police officers. Among the speakers were Newtown Congregational Church Pastor Matthew Crebbin, Congregation Adath Israel Rabbi Barukh Schectman, and St Rose of Lima Catholic Church Monsignor Robert Weiss.
Crebbin offered thanks for all the public servants who have worked over the years to “provide for our public safety these five decades in our beloved town.” Schectman said, “We need in our communities the protection and help of our police... It is necessary to have peace that there be strength and credible deterrents of violence and evil. This is why we need our police.”
Weiss said there have been many shining moments in the history of the department. One moment he said stands out beyond all others: Finding a lone Newtown police officer reading to one of the children killed on 12/14 because if the dead child had been able to go home, someone would have been reading them a nighttime story.
“That to me shows who you really are,” said Weiss, adding that the men and women of Newtown Police Department have committed themselves to “our well-being.”
An Awesome Achievement
While officers oversaw an American flag being raised Saturday morning, Newtown High School student Grace Lynch sang the National Anthem.
“This is an awesome achievement to be here for 50 years,” said Newtown Police Commission Chair Joel Faxon, who was among the speakers.
Along with Faxon, guests at the celebration included former First Selectman Herb Rosenthal, current First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, State Representative Mitch Bolinsky, State Senator Tony Hwang, local members of the clergy, and current and former police officers.
Bolinsky and Hwang delivered an official citation signed by them and State Representative Tony Scott and State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan.
The citation “speaks to just what the Newtown Police Department means to our community,” said Bolinsky.
The citation reads, in part, “Since 1971, The Newtown Police Department has provided superior law enforcement while preserving its mission of honor, integrity, and public trust. It is with great appreciation that we acknowledge your commitment to public safety and positive community engagement. Being woven into Newtown’s very fabric, [the Newtown Police Department] sets a proud standard for law enforcement and trust in discharging its duties. Congratulations and thanks to present and past members for a job well done, and best wishes for the next  years of success in supporting the needs of our community.”
Hwang acknowledged all of the law enforcement officers present for the event.
“Through this building through your support of law enforcement,” Hwang said, speaking to town leaders present at the event, “you made a commitment that the town of Newtown believes in law enforcement, believes in public safety.”
The “brave men and women” on the force are in “every aspect of the community,” Hwang observed.
Saying Thank You
“They are there every single day,” said Hwang. “So as we celebrate the 50th year anniversary of the professionalization of law enforcement we need to take every single day to acknowledge the risk and danger that they encounter in protecting us. So tomorrow, I will say thank you again. And the day after, because I’m grateful and appreciative of the great work that you do in protecting our loved ones and community.”
When he spoke, Herb Rosenthal said he hopes the members of the Newtown Police Department always knew how much he respects them. While the department officially started in 1971, Rosenthal said his connection and affection for it started in the 1950s. His father was serving on the Board of Selectman at the time, he recalled, and he remembers being driven around town in a police vehicle.
“[I’m] really happy that now we have a first class facility for our first class department under the excellent leadership of Chief Viadero,” said Herb Rosenthal.
Dan Rosenthal followed his father at the podium, also sharing memories of interactions with police department members while growing up.
The first selectman also delivered a plaque commemorating the department’s 50 years in town. It reads in part, “With sincere appreciation the Town of Newtown presents this plaque to the Newtown Police Department and all of its officers, both past and present. Their dedicated service over the last 50 years has provided a safe and secure environment for the citizens of Newtown.”
Communities, Dan Rosenthal shared, are built on public safety.
“As a resident and community leader, I sleep well at night and that is because of you,” Dan Rosenthal said looking at the men and women standing together in uniform at the event.
The Newtown Police Department building was open for tours and refreshments were served following the ceremony, which was attended by approximately 100 guests, supporters, and local residents.
Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.